The phony war of pre-season friendlies was brought to an abrupt end with what might be our hardest away game of the season at Marr RFC. Relegated from the Premiership at the end of last season, their first foray at that level, Marr are extremely keen to get straight back up there, or at least straight back into whatever league awaits following the upheavals of the start of the Super 6 League next season, and have retained most of their last year’s team in their efforts to do so.
In contrast, the Dundee team has seen a number of changes over the summer, and the side that ran out was as follows:
15 Kieran Scoular 14 Paul Ritch 13 Chad Ward* 12 Fraser McKay (c) 11 Duncan McIntyre* 10 Ross Aitken* 9 Stuart Lathangie*
1 Scott Doig 2 Cammy Mathieson 3 Lewis McLean 4 Angus Thomson* 5 Kev Franco 6 Niall Hall 7 Ross Milne 8 Lewis McNamara
16 Angus Campbell 17 Harry Meadows 18 Cammy Anderson* 19 Danny McGinn
* 1st XV league debut
Dundee kicked off, and spent the next 10 minutes weathering a fired up Marr’s opening storm, which they did with some great defence. The big Marr pack, certainly one of the largest we’ll face this year, showed its ominous power early on, shunting Dundee off the ball at the first scrum, but some good tackling and a couple of vital turnovers kept Dundee’s line intact. Eventually, after some 10 minutes Dundee got some possession they could run, and good handling brought them to Marr’s 22. Alas, the line out (which troubled us all afternoon) misfired, and our first attacking chance was gone.
Some siege gun kicks out of defence from No. 15 Kieran Scoular, who had a fine game all round with some vital tackles and also some good linking by hand, kept relieving the pressure Marr were building, and one such kick led to a Dundee penalty and a fine break by debutant Ross Aitken. Frustratingly Dundee were penalised for going over the top on the Marr 5 metre line, and the chance went begging.
On 20 minutes, Ross Milne limped off with a hamstring tear, to be replaced by Cammy Anderson. 2 minutes later, Dundee’s defence finally cracked as the big Marr No. 8 Ross Miller powered over to make it Marr 5 Dundee 0. Dundee won the restart, but immediately coughed the ball up, and with our defence in disarray, Marr swept down the wing for their hooker Stephen Adair to score in the corner. Marr 10 Dundee 0.
Dundee regrouped, and some slick passing engineered a gap for Ross Aitken, who took the ball on after a great support run, bamboozled the Marr fullback with a couple of side steps and went under the posts, with captain Fraser McKay adding the extras to make it 10 – 7 after 27 minutes.
For those spectators wondering what had happened to the Leuchars Air Show after Leuchars closed in 2013, the answer was helpfully provided at this point as the Red Arrows performed a noisy fly past, distracting some of the less committed spectators into a wave of nostalgia taking in Lightnings, Tornados and even Spitfires and Lancaster bombers, before focus was regained. In short, the Leuchars Air Show has now become the Ayr Air Show!
Half time came after some more good Dundee defending, with the score remaining 10 – 7 to Marr.
Harry Meadows replaced Lewis McLean for the start of the second half, and the game was soon back into its familiar routine of Marr attacks and Dundee defence, with the odd relieving break. A second try by the barnstorming Marr No. 8, Ross Miller, converted this time by No. 15 Liam McLoughlin, made it Marr 17 Dundee 7 5 minutes into the 2nd half. As in the first half, Marr quickly added another try, with scrum half Finlay Hazel (a half time replacement for his brother Ali!) forcing the ball down after a series of Marr pick and drives close to our line. Marr 24 Dundee 7 with 52 minutes gone.
Paul Ritch and Angus Thomson both went off, to be replaced by Danny McGinn and Angus Campbell respectively, with Angus slotting in at hooker and Cammy Mathieson (Dundee’s man of the match) moving to wing forward. Encouragingly, the Dundee pack were not only starting now to hold their own in the scrums, but even put some pressure Marr, and a couple of good scrums meant possession was retained, leading eventually to new winger Duncan McIntyre going over the line for Dundee. Marr 24 Dundee 12
Dundee’s big defensive effort was however starting to take its toll, and as some players visibly tired, Marr added another quick brace of tries through No. 8 Miller yet again, and No. 11 Tom Steven. Both tries were converted by Liam McLoughlin, and 24 – 12 had quickly become 38 – 12.
But Dundee had the last word, a deserved reward for their highly committed performance, when winger Danny McGinn went over in the right hand corner after their best move of the match, converted once more by Fraser.
Final Score Marr RFC 38 Dundee High Rugby 19 A committed performance by the whole team, with some good handling and great defence, and plenty to build on in the weeks ahead.